Lawyer’s ongoing war with the liquor industry

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Communities Against Alcohol Harm secretary Grant Hewison is a leading campaigner against south Auckland liquor outlets and pokie dens.

Communities Against Alcohol Harm secretary Grant Hewison is a leading campaigner against south Auckland liquor outlets and pokie dens.

Grant Hewison is on a mission to stop the proliferation of liquor outlets and pokie machine dens in south Auckland.

The Grey Lynn resident is secretary of Communities Against Alcohol Harm, a group set up in 2017 to fight back against the growth of such businesses in Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Māngere and Ōtāhuhu.

He’s a lawyer by day and knows the ins and outs of liquor licensing laws like the back of his hand.

His latest target is a wholesaler in Old Papatoetoe’s St George Rd called Black Bull Sky Liquor, which is seeking to renew its off-licence at a District Licensing Committee hearing on November 24. The outlet is owned by Gurpreet Kandola, who bought the business in 2015.

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For Hewison and Communities Against Alcohol Harm it’s the latest battle in their war against liquor outlets in the area.

“There’s already a proliferation of liquor outlets in south Auckland. Every neighbourhood has a liquor store in Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Māngere and Ōtāhuhu,” Hewison said. “These are vulnerable communities with an oversupply of liquor outlets and pokie machines.”

But he’s keen to state he’s not a 21st century temperance advocate.

“We’re not opposed to alcohol, or prohibitionists,” Hewison said.

However, he said the less access there was to alcohol, the less harm it could cause.

Black Bull Sky Liquor in Papatoetoe's St George Rd which is seeking to renew its off-licence in the face of opposition from Communities Against Alcohol Harm.

Stephen Forbes/Stuff

Black Bull Sky Liquor in Papatoetoe’s St George Rd which is seeking to renew its off-licence in the face of opposition from Communities Against Alcohol Harm.

But Kandola said he just wanted to be able to renew his licence and run his business and not be “hounded” by Hewison and Communities Against Alcohol Harm. The group staged a protest outside his store earlier this year.

Kandola disputes the allegations made against him and his business. He said renewing his licence had become a battle and he’s paying for legal counsel to help him state his case.

“But because of that I’m out of pocket for $10,000,” he said. “I called Grant Hewison and said, what do you want me to do? He’s trying to kill the livelihood of people like me who are trying to make a living from their businesses,” he said.

“I accept them saying they don’t want new licences in the area and there are enough liquor outlets out here. But there has to be an honest discussion about this.”

Members of the public have lodged more than 50 submissions against Kandola’s application.

Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) is also opposed. In a report to the District Licensing Committee ARPHS medical officer of health Sunder Lokhande said the Ministry of Health had been notified about “alcohol related accidents involving vehicles and fighting/brawls in the rear car park of the premises”.

Advertising on the outside of the premises had been in breach of the Auckland Council signage bylaw, Lokhande said.

“The applicant director may believe he has authority to breach this bylaw because the council officer declined to take further action at the time. Knowingly to continue to breach a law or bylaw raises concerns about the applicant’s suitability.”

STACY SQUIRES

A licence application for a proposed new liquor store near the University of Canterbury and within an alcohol ban area has raised concerns.

Hewison said under the current system very few renewals for on- and off-licences were declined and it’s hard for people objecting to liquor licence applications. He said most applicants employed legal counsel to state their case.

“The people in the community who object generally aren’t represented and if they are it’s someone like me doing it pro bono, or someone doing it for a reduced fee.”

He said there’s a need to change the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 to make it easier for local communities to have their say. Hewison described his end goal as to see a sinking lid on alcohol outlets in south Auckland.

He said he’s not backing down in his opposition to Black Bull Sky Liquor renewing its licence and claimed he would file new evidence next week against the liquor outlet. And Hewison claimed his group’s work was starting to pay off.

“In the last three years there haven’t been any new liquor stores in these areas because of our work.”

Kandola said he just wanted to renew his licence and end his stoush with Hewison and Communities Against Alcohol Harm.

The battle lines are drawn and the District Licensing Committee could decide the fate of his business at its hearing on November 24.



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